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Germany 2023

Accountability for discriminatory abuses by police was hampered by the lack of effective independent complaints mechanisms. Several protests in solidarity with the rights of Palestinians were banned pre-emptively. Cases of administrative detention against climate activists gave rise to multiple human rights concerns. Politically motivated raids and physical attacks at refugee reception centres increased significantly. A court found the government in breach of the Climate Protection Act.


In May, the Federal Ministry of the Interior reported that hate crimes in the previous year had reached the highest number recorded. Every day, around seven antisemitic hate crimes were committed. Increases included hate crimes against Roma people (33%), and those based on sexual orientation (15%), racism (14%), xenophobia (13%) and “hostility towards foreigners” (9%), with the latter three remaining the most common in absolute terms. According to the report of the Independent Expert Group on Anti-Muslim Sentiment presented in June, anti-Muslim racism was widespread across German society. Following the Hamas attacks in Israel on 7 October, and the subsequent Israeli bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza, civil society organizations reported a rise in antisemitic attacks against Jewish individuals and institutions as well as racist attacks against Muslims.

In October, a study by the Fundamental Rights Agency found that Germany was one of the top two countries in the EU where people of African descent experienced racial discrimination. A research project funded by the German Research Foundation found that 33% of respondents felt they had been discriminated against during interactions with police. Marginalized groups such as racialized people, LGBTI+ people and homeless people were at particular risk of discrimination and less likely to make complaints.

The Council of Europe decided to use enhanced supervision for the judgment on Basu v. Germany concerning inadequate investigations into allegations of racial profiling. The lack of effective, independent complaints mechanisms and mandatory identification badges for police at federal and state levels continued to hamper investigations into allegations of human rights violations by police.

LGBTI people

In March, an amendment to the Transfusion Act was passed, abolishing the discriminatory exclusion of gay and bisexual men as well as transgender people from blood donation. Parliament discussed a new Self-Determination Act enabling trans, non-binary and intersex people to obtain legal gender recognition by making a simple declaration at the registry office.

Gender-based violence

According to figures presented by the Federal Criminal Police Office in July, more cases of gender-based violence were registered in 2022 than in the previous five years. Every hour, more than 14 women were victims of intimate partner violence. Almost every day, a partner or ex-partner tried to kill a woman.

From 1 October, motives based on gender or sexual orientation were explicitly included in the Criminal Code as aggravating factors for all crimes.

Freedom of assembly

In May, the Berlin Assembly Authorities pre-emptively imposed blanket bans on protests in solidarity with the rights of Palestinians around the Nakba Remembrance Day in violation of the right to peaceful assembly. The grounds for the bans also violated the right to non-discrimination as they were based on stigmatizing and racist stereotypes of people perceived as Arab or Muslim. Also, after 7 October, numerous protests in solidarity with Palestinians were pre-emptively banned. There were media reports of unnecessary and excessive use of force by police, hundreds of arrests and increased racial profiling of people perceived as Arab or Muslim in the context of these protests.

Ahead of the international automotive fair in September, at least 27 climate activists were placed in preventative detention for up to 30 days under Section 17 of the Bavarian Police Tasks Act, allowing the police to request detention without concrete suspicion of a crime or initiating a criminal proceeding.

There were several media reports of excessive use of force in policing peaceful protests, including pain compliance holds as a means of dispersing climate activists blocking streets.

Public Prosecutor’s Offices in two federal states investigated climate activist groups under Section 129 of the Criminal Code, accusing them of forming a criminal organization. These investigations involved extensive search and surveillance measures, including the interception of a press telephone and the confiscation of personal data from support groups, creating a chilling effect on peaceful protest.

Freedom of expression

After 7 October, a number of different restrictions on freedom of expression were imposed, particularly against those expressing solidarity with Palestinians. In November, the federal Ministry of Interior banned the phrase “from the river to the sea” as a symbol of Hamas, despite the slogan historically being used with a variety of different connotations and by different actors.

Right to truth, justice and reparation

In February, seven UN Special Rapporteurs expressed grave concerns at the alleged “lack of effective reparative measures afforded” to Ovaherero and Nama peoples in Germany’s former colony of “Southwest Africa” (now Namibia), including lack of “an unqualified recognition of the genocide committed” against them during colonization between 1904 and 1908.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

Some 1.1 million people from Ukraine were residing in Germany, of whom around 900,000 held a resident permit under the Temporary Protection Directive. Germany launched a humanitarian admissions programme for Afghans at risk in October 2022, which was originally designed to admit 1,000 individuals per month, but only 94 Afghan nationals had been transferred to Germany by the end of the year.

Politically motivated raids, assaults, vandalism and physical attacks on refugee reception centres increased significantly compared to 2022. The majority of the attacks were allegedly committed by far-right suspects. Family reunification procedures for refugees in Germany continued to be slow, leaving many families still separated after years apart.

Family reunification for subsidiary protection holders was subject to quotas and under the administration’s discretion.

Right to privacy

In February, the Federal Constitutional Court set high thresholds for the use of automated data analysis in police operations, ruling that it interfered with the right of the individual to make decisions based on informed consent concerning the communication of personal data to others.

Corporate accountability

On 1 January, the Corporate Due Diligence Obligations in Supply Chains Act entered into force, creating binding obligations on enterprises to respect human rights. The law applied only to enterprises with 3,000 or more employees, to be extended to those with 1,000 employees from 2024. The law created no civil liability for violations.

Sexual and reproductive rights

A commission was instituted in March to discuss “reproductive self-determination and reproductive medicine”. However, despite the urging of the CEDAW Committee in May, no changes were proposed to fully decriminalize abortion to bring it into line with international human rights standards and the new WHO guidelines.

Right to a healthy environment

In June, the cabinet approved a legislative proposal to amend the Federal Climate Protection Act. This would abolish binding emission reduction goals for each economic sector and requirement for the adoption of emergency programmes if these were not met. A ruling by the Berlin-Brandenburg Higher Regional Administrative Court in November confirmed that emissions budgets in the transport and building sectors were not met in 2021 or 2022.

Despite Germany’s self-imposed obligation to end the international financial support of fossil fuels projects by the end of 2022, state-owned development banks approved international finance for at least three projects in 2023.

Economic, social and cultural rights

In April, Germany ratified the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. As a result, from 20 July, individual complaints could be submitted to the Committee on the Covenant.

Irresponsible arms transfers

The government introduced “general licences” for the export of certain military equipment and dual-use goods. These replaced the making of decisions on a case-by-case basis, further reducing transparency and potentially facilitating irresponsible exports.

Despite mounting evidence of war crimes by the Israeli army in the occupied Gaza Strip, Germany continued to grant licences for the export of military equipment to Israel. Germany also licensed arms transfers posing a high risk to human rights and international humanitarian law to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.